Coconut Oil Nutrition Facts

Calories and Health Benefits

coconut oil

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman 

One of the few plant sources of saturated fat, coconut oil is solid at room temperature. The oil is pressed from the "meat" of the coconut fruit and is rich in lauric acid (which proponents say has antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, and antioxidant properties).

Nutrition Facts

The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA for one teaspoon of coconut oil.

  • Calories: 40
  • Fat: 4.5g
  • Sodium: 0mg
  • Carbohydrates: 0g
  • Fiber: 0g
  • Sugars: 0g
  • Protein: 0g

Health Benefits of Coconut Oil

The sweet-scented tropical oil is said to offer benefits such as weight loss, better diabetes control, and a stronger immune system. To date, scientific support for the health benefits of coconut oil in humans is limited.

Many of the purported benefits point to coconut oil as a source of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), a type of fat that is absorbed and metabolized more efficiently than other fats. There is some debate about whether lauric acid, the primary fatty acid in coconut oil, acts more like a long-chain fatty acid than a medium-chain fatty acid in the body.

Proponents claim that coconut oil can increase your levels of HDL ("good") cholesterol, making it a better option for your heart than the saturated fats in cheese, butter, and red meat. (At least one large study, however, suggests that having higher HDL cholesterol may not be as beneficial for your heart health after all.)

Some research indicates that coconut oil can also raise your LDL ("bad") cholesterol. A 2016 review published in Nutrition Reviews found that coconut oil raised LDL cholesterol less than butter, but significantly more than unsaturated plant oils.

Although there is evidence from large population studies showing that coconut consumption doesn't appear to have negative effects on heart health, many of these studies involved populations who consumed the whole food or minimally processed coconut products (such as coconut flesh or coconut cream) and ate a traditional diet low in processed foods.

There is much debate in the nutrition community about saturated fat and how much it contributes to heart disease. Coconut oil is still considered by many to be an oil that should be limited due to the saturated fat content. For example, the American Heart Association recommends limiting consumption of saturated fat to no more than 5 to 6 percent of their total daily calories, whether HDl or LDL cholesterol is the issue. In practice, in a 2,000-calorie day, that is 120 calories --- or one tablespoon of coconut oil.

Common Questions

1) Can it help with weight loss? 

Although coconut oil is sometimes said to help with weight loss, it has 120 calories per tablespoon, which is comparable to olive oil and other oils. Although that doesn't mean you shouldn't use it, coconut oil likely isn't going to do much to help you lose weight.

2) Is it a good cooking oil?

Unrefined, or virgin, coconut oil should only be used at low temperatures or not heated at all. The smoke point of unrefined coconut oil is 177 °C or 350 °F making it best suited for shallow frying, which is done at much lower temperatures. It is not recommended for deep frying as overheating may lead to the production of potentially carcinogenic substances.

Refined coconut oil is reported to have a higher smoking point (400 °F) so it can be used for higher temperature cooking. If you're looking for an oil that can be used at high heat for frying and sautéing, look for monounsaturated fat-rich oils such as almond oil, avocado oil, or grapeseed oil.

3) How many calories are in coconut oil?

One teaspoon of coconut oil has 40 calories and one tablespoon of coconut oil has 120 calories.

4) Could you have allergies to coconut oil?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classifies coconut oil as a tree nut for food labeling. Although it is technically a type of fruit called a "drupe" (like almonds, walnuts, pistachios, and pecans) rather than a true tree nut, some people may still have allergies to coconut.

Choosing a Coconut Oil Product

Coconut oil can be purchased at most natural-foods stores and at many grocery stores. When selecting a coconut oil, stay away from hydrogenated oil or oil that has been treated with heat, solvents, or bleach. Opting for "virgin" coconut oil means that the coconut oil was extracted from fresh coconut flesh at low temperatures without being refined, bleached, or deodorized. In addition, virgin coconut oil tends to offer a richer flavor than refined coconut oil.

In addition to 100 percent coconut oil, some companies make a product made from the whole coconut, not just the oil, so it also has protein and fiber. It is called coconut butter or coconut manna and is used in smoothies, shakes, desserts, dressings, and sauces.

Healthy Ways to Use Coconut Oil

Coconut oil can be used as an alternative to butter, or in moderation in recipes that complement the oil's unique, subtly sweet flavor:

  • Add coconut oil to your coffee
  • Use coconut oil on your popcorn instead of butter
  • Try baking with coconut oil
  • Saute onions and garlic
  • Roast vegetables in coconut oil
  • Add shredded coconut or coconut manna to a smoothie

Coconut oil also has skin and hair uses. It's sometimes used topically to moisturize dry skin or as a massage oil.


Give coconut oil a try with this recipe for ​carrot-coconut soup with harissa and crispy leeks, a spinach-broccoli soup with garlic and cilantro, or this recipe for ​maple, pecan, and sour cherry granola.

A Word From Verywell

We've been hearing about the benefits of coconut oil everywhere in the last several years. All in all, coconut oil has a tropical, naturally sweet flavor that could make it a good addition to your pantry. But remember, it's calorie-rich (like other oils, it contains about 120 calories per tablespoon), so it should be used to add variety to the oils you use, like olive oil, rather than to add extra oil to your diet.

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13 Sources
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